The Best Laid Plans…

Today did not go according to plan.

I was supposed to work; it’s Monday and normally I am chained to my desk. I had a great blog post I wanted to write about Big Inc plus my to-do list is a mile long. But I didn’t do any of that.

I played hooky.

Or to be exact, I grabbed my mini figures, camera and headed into the mountains for a lovely hike with a friend. The day was beautiful, the photo gods were smiling on me and I even got back in time to pick up my son from school. It was a glorious day.

I guess this is why I don’t work for Big Inc.

~ xxsjc

Stay tuned, tomorrow we will post another amazing guest blog on the universal question of  “Why?

Another Point of View

Psst… want to know a secret?

+Me2 and I have been working together for nine months and have only talked once on the phone. All communications have been through Kik, this blog and an occasional e-mail. If you know anything about communication then you know this is a very limited palette.

Sometimes I think that +Me2  and I see eye to eye and then he posts a piece like yesterday and I know we don’t. Don’t get me wrong, we have much in common, more than we can both properly express. But we arrive at our mutual love of legography from such different roads it is almost laughable.

I have never worked for Big Inc. the closest I have gotten to a real job was a four year stint in an arts non-profit. I have been out of the corporate work force for so long that when +Me2 starts expressing business concepts I feel that he is speaking another language.

I am really trying not to take offense at this choice bit:

I feel a drive to take pictures and work my “art” but I need the touch with reality and big Inc. to feel that same reality and feel the power balance and not just live in my ivory tower seeking for inner beauty just within myself.

Seriously is this how he views artists? I am sure you can find this stereo type practicing their art somewhere, but I am pretty sure I can lift the lid off any corporate hive and find similarly delusional individuals. They are not limited to the arts world.

Any artist who can count themselves as successful (by which I mean they can pay their bills) has been playing the business game just like any Big Inc. The scope might be smaller, but the spreadsheets, meetings, budgets, advertising campaigns, search for marketshare is no different. We just get the work done without the buzzwords.

Maybe +Me2 and I need to pick up the phone more because something seems to have been lost in translation.

~ xxsjc

After this post I wonder if +Me2 and I will make it another 9 months?
An interesting article on Art graduates and income from the WSJ. 

I was surprised to run into this little Chima bird when I went hiking this weekend. A welcome sight after a tough hike

What is in a Name?

Sometimes an unusual social media handle means nothing, sometimes it means everything.

Take xxsjc for example. It’s a mouthful, it does not roll off the tongue easily and it makes no sense, but it has been my handle since the early days of Twitter. You know, back when people actually talked to each other, before Twitter became a fire hose of self promotion. It is an amalgamation of a person who introduced me to Twitter and my own initials. It is also a nod to the scantily clad women that I used to photograph. But over the years it has taken on a larger and deeper meaning for me.

You see I am not a nice person. I know I look like one and I act like one…most of the time. But deep-down, and in my not so distant past, you will find many examples of the mean s.o.b. that I really am.  My kids like to call those times when I really get pissed off as “when the masks slip”. My daughters current boyfriend is scared to death of me and honestly most of my current friends had to take a real leap of faith to embark on the road to friendship with me.

xxsjc is a play on the more common “xo” used in conjunction with a signature when conversing with a good friend or a loved one. For me using the xx before my name is a reminder to play nice with others, to spread good will and to leave this community a better place than how I found it. Playing with toys has been very good for me and helps me to be the person I want to be. I know I will have achieved my goal when the person behind the mask and the mask become one.

~ xxsjc

Does your Instagram / social media name have any special meaning?

Image by @BigToyPoo

There is Nothing New Under the Sun

It would be hubris to think that what we are doing with toys and photography is any way new. No matter how innovative you may be, there is always someone who has done it before. Sometimes we know who these people are, sometimes we don’t.

This is true in art, music, business, even Lego…just about anything that involves creation and innovation.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of room to find your own way. To acknowledge those who came before you as you move into the future is not only a matter of respect, it’s a smart decision. It says I know who I am, who’s shoulders I have climbed on and that I realize there will be others who come after me. It’s also the honorable thing to do.

I love this quote by Pharrell Williams

Some people say there’s nothing new under the sun. I still think that there’s room to create, you know. And intuition doesn’t necessarily come from under this sun. It comes from within.”

I couldn’t agree more. When I first saw Brett Westin’s underwater nude’s I knew I wanted to do the same thing. But the simple act of dealing with my own limitations in terms of talent and resources created results very different from his. This is how new things are created – old ideas run through the filter of a new artist.

So no matter if you are taking pictures of flowers, kittens, Lego or dinosaurs… look for your inspiration from within and you will create something new. In the mean time, don’t forget those early innovators who paved the way for us all.

~ xxsjc

“There is nothing new under the sun, not even dinosaurs.” ~ +Me2 

How a Lego Photo is Born

My son and I were fooling around with lego the other day and looking through his Master Builder Academy books and I came across this mini build for a cool camera. Needless to say, I whipped one up pronto.  It immediately reminded me of Weegee, so I made him too. Now if you’re going to make a Speed Graphic camera and a figure who looks like Weegee out of Lego, then the next logical step is to set up murder scene.
…and that is how a lego photo is born.  
I’m sure this is going to lead somewhere interesting, I hope you will stick around to find out where.  
– xxsjc 

What a Difference a Year Makes

Recently my life speeded up and I feel like I am moving at light speed. There is so much to do and so little time!

No matter how fast life is moving it is always good to take stock of where you are and how far you have come. I know I have talked about my first lego photo. I’m not shy about how bad it was. But somewhere in the last 2 1/2 years and thousands of photos, I improved. I don’t know where or how, but it happened.

Last spring I was asked by friends to do a series of photos that would substitute for their engagement photos. One thing led to another and these photographs ended up in The Huffington Post. I had my 15 minutes of fame and it was fun.

I promised my friends that I would take one of the images and create a framed piece as they’re wedding gift. Unfortunately the image they chose I had grown dissatisfied with and decided to re shoot it. This ended up being a great way to bench mark how much I have grown and learned in the past year.

Personally I was surprised by how different the photo came out. I do feel it represents my current style, which make me wonder what it will look like if I retake it a year from now?

Next time you have a moment, stop and compare the photos you have taken recently with the photos you took a year ago. And while you are at it, give yourself a pat on the back because I’m sure you have made some significant improvements along the way.

~ xxsjc

Do you ever look back at your photos and notice how much you have learned? 
Do you have a photo you can re-shoot for a side by side comparison?
If so, would you share it with us?

Winning the Lottery

I’m sure for most people winning the lottery conjures up images of piles of money but for a fan of Lego it means scoring a rare set at regular price.

A few weeks ago I tried to purchase set #21110 The Research Institute and set #21109 The Exo Suit and found out that they were either “Sold Out” or “temporarily out of stock” on the Lego web site. They were not to be found at either of my local Lego stores; in fact they were going for double and triple their original asking price on the secondary market.

Aggggghhhhhh

Well, who should come to my rescue but my daughter, Sierra. My daughter is amazing. While I have coped with the excess of Lego in my house by photographing it, she went and got a job at our local Lego Store. This has both it’s pluses and minuses, trust me.

First she found set #21110 at our local toy store Math ‘n Stuff. I love Math ‘n Stuff because they sell Lego, they have an amazing set-up at our local BrickCon and they often have older sets at regular price. The staff is always friendly and did I mention they are only two blocks away? Sierra happened to be in Math n’ Stuff last week to get a new puzzle and spied a case of #21110 behind the counter. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had purchased The Research Institute. It seemed there was hope after all!

Yesterday Sierra came to me and told me that her store was getting in a big Lego shipment and that the Exo Suit was listed on the manifest. The hunt was on! I wasn’t taking any chances on this one. We arrived at the store at opening but alas they had not had a chance to unpack the shipment. We decided not to hover and wandered around the mall. Before we knew it Sierra received a text from Sean, back at the store, that he had found the sets and they were waiting for us.

Woooooo hooooo

Seriously I felt like I had just won the lottery. I’m pretty sure buying Lego shouldn’t engender this kind of emotional response in an adult. But that is my reality.

~ xxsjc

How far have you gone to score that hard to find set?
What set did you miss that you still regret?

My apologies for not having an image that is more appropriate. But life is moving pretty fast right now. Hopefully I will be more on point in future posts. 

The “Like” Trap

This was posted on G+ the other day by a photographer I follow:

“I may have hit the inevitable conclusion that more I try to find a fit for my photography in other’s lives, the more unhappy I become. Social media has inevitably turned from the place of hope to just the typical empty echo chamber that it is. I really need to find a way to go back to shooting for myself and not others.” ~ Anonymous

After reading the comments it seems that he is looking for validation for his photographs in terms of “likes” and favorites. It is easy to fall into the trap of having lots of followers who give feedback to feel like you are moving in the right direction. But this is an ugly trap.

Social media, be it Twitter, Facebook, Google, Flickr or whatever, will not give you the feedback you need and most likely crave. (Let’s be realistic, we all have egos that enjoy an occasional stroking.) I talked earlier about the sheer volume of photos posted daily to FB and G+ here. With this volume of photographs being posted you need to find your motivation from within yourself or from with the work you are doing. It’s near impossible to be seen in this onslaught of imagery. Lets face the harsh reality, more than likely you will be making work that no one really cares about except you.

So stop chasing “likes,” chasing followers, chasing the latest photo trend and create the work that makes you happy. If it’s photos of babies and cats, then make them the best photos they can be. Be it toys or water droplets it doesn’t matter…the only one who is setting the rules is you.

And you know what, if you do the work you love, you never know who is going to start following you. Sometimes miracles do happen.

~ xxsjc

I used an image of a Chima because I have noticed that they usually get 50-100 less “likes” on Instagram than any other image I post. If I was going for the most likes per image I wold post only Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle photos. But I love Eglor and all the characters of the Chima tribes and I will continue to explore my universe with them.

Lemonade from Lemons

I realize I used this photo recently, but I felt it deserved its own post since it has an interesting back story.

In an effort to add a new twist to my photography and set ups I have been making my own accessories. I was inspired by the documentary Marwencol as well as Krash_Override, an Instagram friend.

Lets just say that I have a few things to learn about making accessories for my Lego friends. First is the scale. It is remarkably hard to get the items to scale as well as sized so my little friends are able to hold them comfortably. Second, since my material of choice is metal, the weight and balance point issues are problematic. I guess it never occurred to me that the smallest sword in copper and sterling silver would outweigh a little plastic mini figure.

This particular Chima friend was given a fairly large and weighty double edged sword and found it to be more than he could handle. Not only did it slip out of his grasp, the sheer size toppled him over instantly. As he was teetering on the edge of the rock precipice of our photo shoot, I managed to snap this rather dramatic photograph. Luckily he did not loose control and fall over the edge. I guess it is back to the drawing board for me.

So even though the sword was a bust I did manage to snap one of my favorite photos of the year. The lesson I am trying to impart here is don’t immediately assume every mistake is a failure. Because some where in that failure is a success, sometimes you just have to change your point of view.

How do you feel about the Chima line of mini figures?

Art vs Money

I found this quote in Art & Fear :

“When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.” ~ Oscar Wilde

It seems that life in the ninteenth century was not so different from life in the twenty-first century.

~ xxsjc

Did you buy your copy of Art & Fear yet?
How many different versions of Unikitty do you have?